Home pagePress monitoringScientists create bee vaccine to fight off insect apocalypse

Scientists create bee vaccine to fight off insect apocalypse

Date: 19.12.2018 

Scientists in Finland have developed what they believe is the world's first vaccine to protect bees against disease, raising hopes for tackling the drastic decline in insect numbers which could cause a global food crisis.

Kredit: Muhammad Mahdi Karim / Wikimedia Commons.Bees are vital for growing the world's food as they help fertilise three out of four crops around the globe, by transferring pollen from male to female flowers. But in recent years bee populations around the world have been dying off from "colony collapse disorder", a mysterious scourge blamed on mites, pesticides, virus, fungus, or some combination of these factors.

UN-led research in 2016 found that more than 40 percent of invertebrate pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, are facing extinction. The study also found that 16.5 percent of vertebrate pollinators, such as birds and bats, are under threat. Scientists warn that the die-off will result in higher food prices and the risk of shortages.

The vaccine, developed by a team at Helsinki University in Finland, works by giving bees resistance to fight off severe microbial diseases that can be fatal for pollinator communities. "If we can save even a small part of the bee population with this invention, I think we have done our good deed and saved the world a little bit," lead researcher Dalial Freitak said. "Even a two-to-three percent increase in the bee population would be humongous," she told AFP.

Vaccinating insects was previously thought to be impossible because the creatures lack antibodies, one of the key mechanisms humans and other animals use to fight disease. But a breakthrough came in 2014 when Freitak, a specialist in insects and immunology, noticed that moths who are fed certain bacteria can in fact pass on immunity to their offspring.

 


 

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